Trends in health care and medicine come and go. Whether it’s because of better understanding of conditions that were previously misunderstood, or a more cynical view that doctors are over-diagnosing certain conditions, there are definite peaks of interest regarding certain conditions.

One of those is autism. In decades past, parents and doctors had a difficult time trying to figure out how to help their autistic children. Misunderstanding about the true nature of their condition led them, in some cases, to be institutionalized, in spite of above-average intelligence.

Autistic children continue to have difficulty fitting in with traditional academic settings. One mother describes her 10-year-old son as being an excellent science student with a mind for oceanography, but his discomfort with group activities such as physical education class or school assemblies has made school life nearly impossible. And while above-average academically, for example, the boy has trouble with tasks such as tying his shoes or opening a plastic bag.

As autistic kids become autistic adults, their difficulty with fitting in might make having a traditional job — or, in some cases, almost any job at all — out of the question. People in this situation might qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

Managing autism is an expensive proposition. Over a lifetime, it’s estimated that it will cost about $1.4 million to care for an autistic person. If the person has other issues, such as a cognitive impairment or an intellectual disability, that figure rises to about $2.4 million. This means that people affected by autism, and their families, often need all the financial help they can get.

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer, “Study estimates basic lifetime autism care at $1.4M,” Rachel Zamzow, June 15, 2014